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Day 204: James Brown – Live at the Apollo

20 Sep

I’ll Go Crazy

When I saw that my dad picked a live record for this week’s Dad-Rock Tuesday, I admit that I was a little skeptical.  In order to appreciate a live recording, one usually needs to be a fan of the band, as well as the material being played.  I know that the Hold Steady’s A Positive Rage would sound awful to an ear unfamiliar with Craig Finn’s “singing,” And I couldn’t possibly imagine listening to a live White Stripes record without knowing that Meg White is supposed to be bad at playing her instrument.

Then he told me that it’s just over half an hour in length, and I stopped worrying.  Brown’s Live at the Apollo is apparently an iconic and important record anyway.

Not that I’m basing this off of something factual or anything—this is Swole Ear after all— but this record may be considered “great” because Brown is showcased in his natural habitat—the stage.  Even though I haven’t heard a full studio album by the guy, I’m well aware of his legendary live performances.  This record almost places you in Harlem that night in 1962.  Brown is always improvising and interacting with the crowd, it’s easy to hear why his live shows are loved.

The key word there is “almost.”  Live at the Apollo has the same problem that pretty much every live record has: concert recordings cannot duplicate the concert experience.  What was it that James Brown did that led to the sudden collective scream of approval from the audience?  How great was the anticipation of the crowd, who possibly had been waiting weeks for the show?  Something is lost when a concert is only listened to after the fact.